Oversight Board publishes policy advisory opinion on the sharing of private residential information

Press Release by Oversight Board: “Last year, Meta requested a policy advisory opinion from the Board on the sharing of private residential addresses and images, and the contexts in which this information may be published on Facebook and Instagram. Meta considers this to be a difficult question as while access to such information can be relevant to journalism and civic activism, “exposing this information without consent can create a risk to residents’ safety and infringe on an individual’s privacy.”

Meta’s request noted several potential harms linked to releasing personal information, including residential addresses and images. These include “doxing,” (which refers to the release of documents, abbreviated as “dox”) where information which can identify someone is revealed online. Meta noted that doxing can have negative real-world consequences, such as harassment or stalking…

The Board understands that the sharing of private residential addresses and images represents a potentially serious violation of the right to privacy both for people who use Facebook and Instagram, and those who do not.

Once this information is shared, the harms that can result, such as doxing, are difficult to remedy. Harms resulting from doxing disproportionately affect groups such as women, children and LGBTQIA+ people, and can include emotional distress, loss of employment and even physical harm or death.

As the potential for harm is particularly context specific, it is challenging to develop objective and universal indicators that would allow content reviewers to distinguish the sharing of content that would be harmful from shares that would not be. That is why the Board believes that the Privacy Violations policy should be more protective of privacy.

International human rights standards permit necessary and proportionate restrictions on expression to protect people’s right to privacy. As such, the Board favors narrowing the exceptions to the Privacy Violations policy to help Meta better protect the private residential information of people both on and off its platforms.

In exchanges with the Board, Meta stressed that “ensuring that the “publicly available” definition does not exempt content from removal that poses a risk of offline harm” is a “persistent concern.” Public records and other sources of what could be considered “publicly available” information still require resources and effort to be accessed by the general public. On social media, however, such information may be shared and accessed more quickly, and on a much bigger scale, which significantly increases the risk of harm. As such, the Board proposes removing the “publicly available” exception for the sharing of both private residential addresses and images that meet certain criteria….(More)”.